Israel has begun rapid deployment of the laser air defense system

In response to recent hostilities against Hamas, Israel has initiated the rapid implementation of the Iron Beam laser air defense system, as reported several sources. 

With this strategic decision, operational tests will see the deployment of a 100 kW laser as an active component of the Israel Defense Forces’ arsenal. 

Rafael, the company behind the design and manufacturing of the Iron Beam, has tailored the laser system to counteract a broad array of threats. 

An anti-rocket, -shell, -mortar, -drone system

The system has demonstrated proficiency in intercepting such threats as rocket artillery shells, mortar mines, and drones from a distance of multiple kilometers. 

The cost-effectiveness of the high-energy laser weapon presents a compelling advantage. Each shot from the Iron Beam costs up to a thousand dollars – a stark contrast to the Iron Dome ABM system’s Tamir interceptor missile, valued between 40 and 50 thousand US dollars. 

Amid the current high-intensity conflict, Israel grapples with a severe shortfall in ammunition for the Iron Dome system. The United States has responded by transferring missiles from its own reserves to the Israeli army. The Israeli military executed a sequence of successful tests on the Iron Beam in March 2022, in which the prototype effectively destroyed drones, mortar mines, and rockets. 

Expedited roll-out

While initial planning estimated the Iron Beam to be included in the IDF’s operations by 2025, current events have necessitated an expedited roll-out. The Iron Beam functions as a strategic companion to the Iron Dome. It is aimed at enhancing Israel’s multilayered air and anti-missile defense system. 

Israel downed missiles, mortar, ATGM, and UAV using a laser system
Photo credit: The Times of Israel

At present, the IDF and Rafael possess only prototype laser stations, incapable of providing complete protection for Israeli territories. Thus, the initial use of lasers is expected to be limited to protecting critical areas facing heightened vulnerability. 

Israel: 'For $2 Iron Beam shots down mortar rounds, UAVs, rockets'
Photo: Amos Ben Gershom/GPO

Furthermore, a recent report disclosed the procurement of the first four prototypes of the newest 50-kilowatt DE M-SHORAD short-range air defense laser systems by the United States Army.

2022, April

In April 2022, Israel’s Ministry of Defense released a declassified video of the Iron Beam tests. The Israeli army demonstrated a new laser anti-aircraft system by intercepting and neutralizing multiple airborne threats in the Negev desert. The event was confirmed by the Ministry of Defense, and it indicates a huge step forward in defense capabilities. 

Does Israel use a laser system against Hamas rockets?
Photo credit: Wikipedia

The operation was documented by the military on April 14th. Brig. Gen. [res.] Yaniv Rotem, from the Ministry, praised the technological progress, ease of use, and affordability of the laser system. With frequent targets from Iran, Israel sees the laser system as a crucial tool for readiness against potential large-scale conflicts. Prime Minister Naftali Bennett announced plans to implement the system by the end of 2022. 

The new laser system, called the Iron Beam, will work alongside the Iron Dome, increasing coverage and efficiency. However, its effectiveness might be limited under poor weather conditions. There are plans to develop an Iron Beam model for aircraft use, but this might take longer than expected. 

Hezbollah’s 13,000 missiles

The Israeli military warns of Hezbollah’s possession of around 13,000 missiles, as well as additional threats from Hamas and the Palestinian Jihad. Another concern is Iran’s anti-Israeli stance and its use of unmanned aerial vehicles. 

Artillery and airstrikes from Israel on Hezbollah and Hamas
Photo credit: Reuters

Given these scenarios, the rollout of the Iron Beam is critical. Paired with the Iron Dome, David’s Sling, and Arrow + Patriot, it bolsters Israel’s aerial defense capabilities substantially in preparation for possible future conflicts.

Just $2

Israeli Prime Minister, Naftali Bennett, conveyed his satisfaction with Rafael’s advances in developing strategic defense systems, crucial for maintaining national security. 

Drawing a comparison on June 6, 2022, Bennett highlighted the cost-benefit contrast: “While an enemy might invest tens of thousands of dollars in a missile attack, our investment is minimal, merely two dollars towards electricity costs incurred in shooting down such a missile,” he explained. 

He further emphasized the transformative role of the Iron Beam. This military system not only counters enemy attacks but also brings an economic burden to foes. Additionally, the Iron Beam’s superiority enables Israel to outrun adversaries, putting it at a significant global advantage. “In all realms and scenarios, we are strategically prepared,” affirmed Bennett.

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